Cybersecurity experts called it a wake-up call: In September 2017, national credit bureau Equifax suffered a massive data breach that exposed the personal information of over 145 million customers. The breach was a startling reminder that your personal information might not be as secure as you would like to believe. It also woke many consumers up to the concept of freezing their credit.
Here’s a quick guide on how credit freezes work, how you can apply one yourself, and what you have to do to thaw your credit freeze.
What a credit freeze does
A credit freeze prevents lenders or financial institutions from accessing your credit report. It can also stop an identity thief from opening an account or getting credit in your name, even if they have accessed your personal information through a security breach like the one that hit Equifax in September.
Even if Equifax reports that you weren’t impacted by the breach (which you can check at EquifaxSeurity2017), you might still consider a credit freeze. Doing this stops any of your personal and financial information from being reported to lenders and creditors. This is important; if a thief tries to use this information to apply for a new credit card or loan in your name, the application would automatically be rejected.
How to apply a freeze
Even though Equifax suffered the breach, freezing your credit with Equifax alone is not enough. To completely protect your personal information, you must freeze your credit with all three national credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
The quickest way to do this is by logging onto the security freeze pages maintained by each bureau:
You can also call each of the bureaus by phone to request a credit freeze. You can reach Equifax at 1-800-685-1111, TransUnion at 1-888-909-8872, and Experian at 1-888-397-3742.